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The Half-Life of the Shackled and Blind

dreamstime_xs_54419891By Heidi Jost

“And Saul approved of their killing [Stephen.]” Acts 8:1

We’ve been talking about Joseph around here. Distilling his tale for my children has a trickle-down effect in my own heart:

Forgiveness unshackles our spirits from the past. Bitterness chains us so we are helpless to be all God wants us to be right now.

Joseph’s brothers wanted him dead, and their wish nearly came true. But Joseph lived. Can you imagine, on the desert journey to Egypt, dragged and dehydrated, how Joseph might have been tormented by the memory reel replaying his brothers’ murderous, hateful words and actions?

Yet he forgave them all. “Am I in the place of God?” he said. Of course not. How could he hold their sins against them, then?

Seeing through God’s eyes, Joseph knew that while his brothers “intended to harm me…God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

We had dinner recently with our friend from Afghanistan, who came of age under Taliban rule. Sitting long at table, we listened to her stories of God on the move in the Middle East.

“Muslims know evil spirits,” she said. What they need to see, and what they are seeing now, is God’s spirit of power and healing. Miracles happen there, and eyes are opened. Like hers were years ago, mostly through the relentless love of missionaries.

“It was always very scary – all the time – over there,” said our friend. Her eyes lit then, “But also, so – “ she gestured, arms out, looking for a word big enough.

“Thrilling?” I said. Continue reading…

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To Judge or not to Judge…

dreamstime_xs_36474293By Jesse Jost

Our culture’s favourite verse, which is applied very selectively, is “do not judge.” (Matt 7:1) A verse that is not so quoted is where Jesus sheds more light on the topic by warning us “not to judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24)

In a world full of evil and danger, wisdom forces us to try to discern between the harmless and the harmful, between the hazardous and the healthy, and between the true and the false. So at one level, making judgments is unavoidable. But our need to judge others seems to go far beyond our need to survive. We love to size up other humans; we make snap-judgments and stereotype. We are quick to make assumptions that aren’t warranted, and declare a verdict based on insufficient evidence.

Judging an issue or another person is serious business. Our judgments have consequences: they dictate our attitudes and our course of actions. When we judge, we are deciding reward or punishment. We reward with trust, time spent with a person, words of affirmation or praise, money spent on a product, etc. We punish by avoidance, emotional withdrawal, silence, criticism, boycotting, slander, or worse.

Clearly, getting our judgments right has huge implications for our self and others. To punish the innocent or reward the evil is a serious offence to God and results in the decay of society.

Incorrect judgments cause much misery and relationship breakdown. I’m sure you don’t have to look too far into your own past to see hurt brought about by an unjust judgement. Our capacity to judge is a loaded weapon with explosive power. Sadly, we swagger around firing the bullets of judgment with reckless abandon, caring little about the serious damage we are inflicting on others.

Some will advocate for judgment pacifism, a mutual disarmament on all judging. I don’t believe that is the answer. Dangers need to be recognized, frauds need to be exposed, evil needs to be unmasked. These are vicious cancers that prey upon the weak. When evil lurks, the vulnerable suffer the worst. Love that stands by and does nothing to speak up or protect is not love, but sentimental cowardice.

Sin is always destructive, which why our loving God abhors it. To not judge sex slavery as evil is to contribute to the ongoing torture millions of girls are experiencing every day. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the more we will passionately love the world He has made and those who bear His holy image. Greater love will result in greater passion to bring freedom and healing to those who are enslaved in sin’s corrosive clutches. This requires making a right judgment.

But while fighting for truth, goodness, and beauty requires judging, we must be ever wary of the devastation a hasty and incorrect judgment inflicts. I would like to suggest a quick safety course on the correct handling of judgment. Continue reading…

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Free Personal Evangelism Course

dreamstime_xs_34535108

by Jesse Jost
The topic of witnessing can be so guilt inducing for many Christians. We know we have an obligation to the lost, but there is so much confusion surrounding how to go about it without alienating the very people we are trying to grow closer to.

In 2010 I was invited to Ecola Bible School (in Cannon Beach, OR) to teach a week long course on Personal evangelism. In preparing for the course, I read several powerful books by people who had so much more wisdom and life experience in evangelism than I had. I was so encouraged and inspired by the practical tips and strategies they offered. I tried to include their most helpful ideas. The class objectives were as follows:

To have a clearer understanding of what the gospel message really is and how to communicate it effectively to the world around us. To grasp the importance of clear communication and how perception and worldviews will affect how our message is interpreted. To learn how to handle the tough objections people often need to deal with before they are ready to listen. To discover a fun and valuable way to memorize Scripture. And finally to see the lost through God’s eyes, and determine what He requires of us in our interactions with unbelievers.

I am happy to offer free audio downloads of the sessions and the syllabus. I hope you are encouraged by these talks to step out of your comfort zone and share the incredible good news of Jesus Christ in a loving and winsome way!

Download the podcasts of the sessions: purityandtruth.podbean.com

Download the Syllabus: Personal evangelism syllabus

Session 1: The Atonement Topics: Why did Jesus have to die? What did his death accomplish? How could God’s justice be satisfied by the worst crime in human history? Did Jesus save us from our sins, or the penalty of our sins, or both? Will cover different views on the atonement that have been held throughout church history.

Session 2 “What is the Gospel message?” Topics include: What must I do to be saved? Can you lose your Salvation? How can I know for sure I am going to heaven? What is required on our part? Illustrations that will communicate the gospel ideas in fresh ways.

Session 3 “What do they hear?” Topics: The importance of listening in evangelism. Overcoming the language barrier. How worldviews and past experiences affect how our message is perceived. Communication skills that are critical to evangelism.

Session 4 “Worldview Awareness” Topics: What is a worldview? Objective Truth vs. Subjective Truth. Worldview and Evangelism. False Worldviews. Strategies for discerning and exposing a false worldview.

Session 5 “The Ambassadors methods.” Topics: How questions can move people farther along than answers will. Questions that can turn conversations toward spiritual ideas. Conversation starters.

Session 6 “Dealing With Doubters and How to Prevent Backsliding” Topics: My personal journey with doubt and the truths that strengthened my faith.

Session 7 “Dealing with objections” Topics: Strategies for dealing with common objections. Concise apologetics arguments that work in real life conversations. Objections covered, “There is no God.” “How can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?” “Jesus was just a myth.” “The Bible is a man-made book full of contradictions.” “God won’t send anyone to hell.” “The church is full of hypocrites.”

Session 8 “How to memorize Scripture” Topics: New techniques that are guaranteed to make scripture memory easier, and help with longer retention.

Session 9 “The Plight of the Lost.” Topics: Why evangelize? How does the Bible tell us to witness? The emptiness of those who are outside of Christ. How does God see the non-believer?

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Why Good Sex Can Never Be Captured on Film

dreamstime_xs_25965250By Jesse Jost

Love scenes stir deep passions within us. It’s difficult to look away: Sexual attraction is inherent in us, and sex has unparalleled beauty. Hence, sex is a popular subject for photographers and filmmakers. But what messages are these public portrayals of physical affection communicating about sex?

God created sex (best idea ever), and also laid out strict instructions to keep the sex act within marriage. In His omniscience, He has reasons and purposes for these commands that we may never fully understand. However, the test tube of earthly life shows the brutal consequences of unrestricted sexual expression. What was meant to be a transcendent experience has often turned out to be a hellish nightmare for millions of exploited women.

Sex is designed to make two individuals “one flesh.” (Mark 10:8) This is fulfilled literally in reproduction, as the parents’ genes combine to form a new person. But sex is also given to unite a husband and wife spiritually and emotionally, a bond that is unmatched in any other relationship.

Clearly, good sex is so much more than the physical act. Sex the way God intended it is a physical and tangible expression of the emotional and spiritual bond that should be forming at the same time. Any sex act divorced from these relational bonds is destructive and exploitative.

Good sex is found only in an environment of trust. Intimacy requires a disclosure that makes one vulnerable. Before a woman can let go and fully express herself sexually, she needs to know that man receiving this sacred knowledge of her will not use it against her, and will be a safe place where she will be treasured for who she is, where she will not feel compared with any other woman. Good sex creates a paradise for a woman, a new Garden of Eden where she is queen alone.

This requires privacy. The very act of bringing a camera into the equation breaks the spell, stealing from the woman her sacred knowledge and making it available to any man who wants to mentally violate her by using that knowledge for his own selfish gratification. No matter how beautiful the portrayal of sex or how innocent it appears, the on-screen image is shouting a lie, and to receive lustful gratification from that image is to participate in the exploitation of that woman. Continue reading…

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The Most Valuable Exercise You Can Get

dreamstime_xs_34568158By Jesse Jost

Would you like to hear God’s voice more clearly? Would you like to be filled with the Spirit’s power? Do you yearn for greater wonder at God’s glory? Hungry for insight into life or wisdom for life’s many choices?

If you have even the slightest spark of spiritual life, you will answer resoundingly, “Yes!” I think we all desire these things and request them frequently in our prayers. But our actions prove how much we really desire these things. God has given us means to experience dramatic growth in each area mentioned. But unfortunately it requires work, sacrifice, and discipline.

“Oh, I was hoping that it could just kind of happen by magic. That I could hear a great sermon, or attend a worship service that would change everything.”

Yeah, me too. In fact, I keep hoping and praying for such an experience. Sometimes God does work that way. The instantaneous filling of God’s Spirit is powerful to change us. But from the track record of history and the recorded experience of the saints, it seems that the normal way God transforms his people is through His Word.

God’s Word is not like our words. We use words to describe things or attempt to convey thoughts. But God’s Word creates and transforms. God speaks, “Let there be light,” and the planets and galaxies rise, shining in space. Jesus shouts, “Lazarus, come forth!” and a man dead for four days springs to life. When God speaks into our soul, we are changed. His voice is the most explosive power in the universe. Power of this magnitude is terrifying. Who else do you know that could destroy you and your soul with a single word?

Thankfully, the heart behind such awesome power is full of great mercy and tenderness. It is a heart of an artist, full of beauty. It is a kind and compassionate heart.

At some mysterious level, it seems God has restrained the power of His voice. At least for the time being, He has given us freedom to decide how much we want to tap into this power. We have to seek for wisdom diligently and will find it when we seek with all our hearts. But make no mistake, this power is available to all through the pages of the Bible.

I believe the equation is simple: the more you get the Bible into you, the more you will experience the benefits mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s what God’s Word itself promises: Continue reading…

  • Rachelle

    Great challenge!! I memorized a ton as a child, but it has seriously fallen to the wayside in the past few years. I appreciate the “jump start” and ideas!
    Another tip my dad taught us was to make up cards with the first letter of each word. It’s a great middle ground way of pushing yourself to remember without reading it, but make sure you’re not missing words. ????

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2015 Christmas Letter

IMG_2299This year we decided that the head of this family should write the Christmas letter. So even though I am only 16 months old, I, Justin, accepted the job. Some of you may be thinking “16 months? What’s he know – maybe 10 words? How interesting is that gonna be?” Well, let me tell you, I may be able to only speak a limited number of words right now, but in writing I have the vocabulary of a brilliant 33 year old. And as far as interesting goes, I’m too young to have inhibitions or know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate, so you should be entertained.

Let me start this letter by telling you about myself. My name is Justin Edwards and I am the youngest of 4 kids. Mommy and Dad just keep getting better and better at this kid-making thing as the quality has improved dramatically with each child (Sorry J-M, I got to be honest). I am a terribly busy man with big plans for this family, so be grateful I am finding time to write this.

I like to read, although most books are too simplistic for me and fail to hold my attention. I play an important job in this home as the chief safety inspector. It’s very time consuming as it involves climbing every possible bench, stool, chair, couch, and ladder and being constantly on the lookout for sharp items, as well as testing choking hazards. This is NOT a safe house. I have fallen countless times and made numerous appeals that go ignored. Sure, they think they’ve got the stools and marbles hidden, but I find them.

It’s also my job to inspect all the bags and containers that come into this house, such as purses and wallets. I’m a little suspicious my parents are doing something illegal because they keep pulling me away. Oh well, that’s what quiet time is for.

Another serious duty I perform is making sure this family doesn’t have more kids anytime soon. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I keep a close eye on Daddy and Mommy and make sure they don’t have any time alone. This requires a short nap in the evening, but then I’m good till they go sleep. I’d be completely successful if it wasn’t for interfering aunties who take us away and leave Mommy and Daddy unprotected.

I’m not sure why they would want more kids, since I believe I am everything they could want in a child. I’m smart, cuddly, adorable, and for the most part have a sweet disposition. Enough about me (I can’t believe I just wrote that…). Let me tell you about my older siblings. Continue reading…

  • Grandma Wahl

    Justin, do you want to write G’ma & G’pa Wahl’s Christmas letter? We’ll even give you a cookie treat! Ha! We loved the family update and we’re so blessed to watch each little one grow up and discover God’s Word and world. Christmas joy to you all!

  • Rebecca

    Wow. Where do you get such smart kids? Actually, I kind of like mine just the way they are… I don’t think my brain could keep up with such a precocious child!!
    Jesse, my hat is off to you! You did it again. Kept the record of one of my top loved Christmas letters. = )
    Sure love your family…

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The Righteous Quest God Hates

dreamstime_xs_43204263By Jesse Jost

We hate this world’s evil, and hate even more the villains we hold responsible. We may believe that wars and turmoil are sparked by cold, calculating despots who care nothing for right and wrong. But I’m wondering if the most dangerous people in the world are those passionate about the rightness of their cause, willing to lay down their life to impose their vision of the way things should be.

I believe the great disruptors of peace and unity, the real cancers to churches and communities, are not men who have knowingly signed a pact with the devil, but men who believe they have the truth and are crusaders for righteousness. No one thinks he is the problem, or that he is spreading poison. It might be obvious to those around him that he is the divisive man Paul warned to admonish twice, and “then have nothing to do with him.” (Titus 3:10-11)

Yet the man who is stirring up division will believe that he is simply “standing with the truth,” and that he is being “persecuted for righteousness’s sake.” Meanwhile, he has become someone who God hates – one who sows discord among brothers! (Proverbs 6:19) This should sober us all to self-examination. Wouldn’t it be terrifying to discover that the Almighty God of the universe hates what you are doing?

In every conflict and war, there will be opposing sides – people who believe they have truth on their side and that truth is worth dying for. Each side simply can’t fathom the stupidity or ignorance or wickedness of the other. But at least one side is deceived at some level. In your conflicts and crusades, how do you know that you are in cause of Christ? How do you know that you are not the divisive person or the one sowing discord?

How much does God care about unity and peace?

Continue reading…

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The Relentless Love of God

dreamstime_xs_22964162By Jesse Jost

I don’t know about you, but I often doubt that God really loves me. Part of me wonders if the message of God’s love is too good to be true. Maybe it’s just more Joel Osteen syrup lulling me into a sugar coma where I’m safe from the hard truths in scripture about holiness, judgement, and God’s wrath. 

Is it possible to over-proclaim God’s love? Does focusing on God’s unconditional love make us lazy about discipline and obedience? Can we have too high a view of God’s love? Can we conjure a false god who would love us more than the real God does? I don’t think so.

If there is one truth that Satan does not want you to grasp, I believe it is this: God loves you with an overwhelming, steadfast, relentless love. Spiritual problems don’t crop up in our life because we have too exalted a view of God’s love, but because our view is not great enough.

There are two partial views of God’s love that Satan desperately spreads to wreak havoc with your spiritual growth:

  1. God wants you to be good and holy, but His love is contingent on your spiritual performance.
  2. God loves you unconditionally just the way you are, and He’s content to leave you unchanged.

Both partial views make far too little of God’s love and are no threat to Satan’s ultimate goal of destroying your relationship with God.

Some of you have grown up in a legalistic home where God was portrayed as harsh and stern. God only loved you when you were good; He had such ridiculously high expectations that you felt He was always disappointed in you. You are in dire need of seeing the unconditional aspect of God’s love.

But sadly we often exchange one incomplete view of God’s love for another. The Stern Critical Father is replaced with the Infatuated Teenager view of God’s love, where God is “crazy about you” and “obsessed with you.” God loves everything about you just the way you are. Here God’s love is reduced to dreamy infatuation that doesn’t seem to care about your bondage to sin. He’s not bothered by your little failures; He just wants you to know that He loves you.

Both of these views of God’s love are pitifully weak compared to the raging holy passion that the real almighty God of the universe has for you. God loved you while you were dead in sin, an enslaved enemy of God. God loves because He IS love. His nature is to love sacrificially and without end. God can’t NOT love you anymore than God can lie. God loves you just the way you are. But God loves you far too much to leave you broken and enslaved to things that are destroying you! Continue reading…

  • Sara Daigle

    This is a wonderful, wonderful, article. Thank you so much!

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A Message From The Author of Your Faith

dreamstime_xs_23872857Verses compiled, personalized and paraphrased by Jesse Jost

I want you to stop and ponder what amazing love My Father has given you by calling you His children.

Think about it: You were dead in your trespasses and sins, following the course of this world, enslaved to one who hates you, carrying out the evil desires of body and mind. You were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing your days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. You were by nature children of wrath, enemies of God. But My Father, who is rich in mercy, and because of His great love with which He loves you, even while you were dead in sin, made you alive in Me, and raised you up to be seated in heavenly places, that in you might be displayed His indescribable kindness.

You have been saved by His grace through faith. This is not your doing, but pure gift. You have done nothing to earn this, so don’t boast. You are My workmanship. I created you for good works that were prepared before you were conceived.

You once were nobodies, without mercy and without hope. But now you have been predestined for adoption by the King of Kings. You are in line for an inheritance that you can barely comprehend. This is a sure thing because it’s been promised by My Father who works all things according to the counsel of His will. No purpose of His can be thwarted.

All whom the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will lose none of you. I am able to save you to the uttermost. I live to make intercession for you.

Don’t think I’m a high Priest who can’t sympathize with your weakness! I was tempted in every respect that you are, I tasted the weakness and the deprivations of life, and through My own death, I destroyed the one who has the power of death: the devil. So come with confidence to My throne and you will receive mercy and grace to help in your time of need.

Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your enemy, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you. Don’t rely on your strength, and don’t look to your righteousness to be accepted by Me. Don’t boast in your giftings or callings, because they all come from Me. I am the one who is empowering everyone.

Don’t think you can stand on your own. Abide in me. Without Me you can do nothing. I will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able and will always provide a way of escape. Be extra vigilant against pride. Seriously, don’t take pride lightly! My Father opposes the proud person! Reflect on that a minute. You don’t want God against you!

Continue reading…

  • Jackie

    A pastor explaining Eps. 2:1 used the illustration of a body in a graveyard … that that is how “dead” we are, and unable to save ourselves. This article is one of the clearest, most personal and beautiful compilations I’ve ever read. God is certainly using your writing!

  • Jesse

    Thank you so much for writing. It encouraged me today that God is powerful and I want to keep staying close to Him. I found your blog a few years ago and have enjoyed and been blessed by your articles.

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An Often Overlooked Spiritual Cancer

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-man-headache-casual-wearing-blue-tshirt-jeans-dark-background-image31791190By Jesse Jost

What are you frustrated with right now? Is your church spiritually dry and apathetic? Are there people who just don’t understand you and continue to torment you with words of slander? Is your body letting you down with weakness and sickness? Has your vehicle broken down again?

We start each day with different goals and agendas for what we want to accomplish. But usually we don’t get very far into the day before we discover that life has other plans for us. Sickness, injury, red tape, human incompetence, and the internet can each appear as an obstacle to our goals.

The Bible calls these interruptions to our agenda “trials.” We want sleep and the stomach flu leaves its calling card all over our kids’ bathroom. We want to live a sanctified life for God’s glory with a sweet spirit, but tiredness and hormones make the day an emotional struggle. Life with other broken humans means that you can’t get too far down the path before someone does or says something that shatters your peace and tranquility.

When our purposes and plans are derailed, we feel angry and frustrated. We believe we are justified in indulging frustration, because it is, in a twisted way, very ego stroking. When we are frustrated by other people’s stupidity or incompetence, we inwardly delight in our superiority, that were we in their shoes, we would do things better. When we are frustrated by spiritual immaturity, or ineffectiveness in our church body, we believe we are among the truly spiritual ones. When we are frustrated by breakdowns and delays, it is because we believe that our plan for the day is the best and that it is being hindered.

Is frustration a spiritually healthy condition to be in?  Is frustration proof of our righteousness? Is God ever frustrated?

This world is not as it should be. Babies are mutilated and sold for research. Women are raped in the name of religion. We are saddled with corrupt bureaucratic governments, and a society that seems determined to flaunt its self-destructive ways in the face of God. Surely God must be so frustrated with us down here. Right? Well, if by  “frustrated” you mean, “feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, especially because of inability to change or achieve something,” then no. According to the Bible, God cannot be frustrated because “no purpose of His can be thwarted,” (Job 42:2) and God “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph 1:11)  Continue reading…

  • Timothy

    Doesn’t Jesus have a bit of frustration in his voice when he says things like, “How long will I be among this twisted generation?”

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